Meat is a Mystery to Schools – Massive Recall of Beef Using Federal Lunch Program – Hey, [Safe] Meat Really Matters to Moms and Kids!


Another troubling story about a company with a clear lack of accountability and sense of corporate responsibility, and a situation with minimal government oversight, this time from the food business.  A whopping 143 million pounds of beef were recalled this week, but only after disgusting confidential videos provided by the Humane Society appeared in the new media channels showing “downers” (very sick cows) being hustled around with fork lift trucks and pry bars to be processed into hamburgers.  Many hamburgers.  Figure tens of millions worth!  Fifty million pounds – literally tons and tons worth of beef — went for school lunches. That’s a lotta burgers for ingestion into the developing bodies of American youngsters, no?


It seems some 20 million pounds (that’s million of beef-tons if you’re keeping track here) were served in schools – at one-quarter pound per burger, maybe 80 million or more were therefore served hot in school cafeterias.  Where did the beef come from?  The USDA-supervised program which buys from the lowest bidder (in bulk) and coordinates distribution to school systems.  Do you know where your kid’s school lunches come from?



Neither do we — we really have no idea, really, about “where” the meat from these cows ended up – perhaps in the stomachs of some kids whose misfortune is to be from a low- income family, thereby entitling them to free or reduced-price lunch at school, which may be the most important meal of their day. (Times 30 million kids in the program.) Talk about a great divide, the elites who now run the government agencies in Washington and — and the rest of us!  Add one more consequence of growing up poor.


Then there are the reassuring words to help us get through this latest scare – do these “ring true” for you when you read or hear them?  You be the judge.


US Department of Agriculture (promoter of the subsidized beef program):

“…health risks are very, very remote…”


May be suggest the recalled beef be warmed up and served in the Washington headquarters of the USDA?  To every meat plant inspector from USDA for the next six months?  At the White House and Congressional mess?  (nahh…they don’t like that kind of meat.)


From the trade association flack:


“…no evidence meat was unsafe…patently false meat was unsafe or of inferior quality…”  No wonder some Washington DC spokespersons have so little credibility.  Send a truckload to the buffet tables at the American Meat Institute’s next “Annual Meat Conference” in March.  (We are too late for the AMI “Animal Care and Handling Conference” in February.)  “…we’re obviously feeding a lot of children subsidized lunches, so we’re trying to make sure we do that in a cost-effective, safe manner…”  Obviously…safe?  Cost effective = factory conditions?


Perhaps what the school program is really about is another way to subsidize American industry – says Mark Coplan, spokesman for the Berkeley school system (California): “…schools are held hostage…they offer you pennies per child…and you are forced to spend these on frozen products that subsidize farmers, meatpackers and meat producers…”


Ever read “The Jungle,” by the muckraking author Upton Sinclair?  If you serve food in institutional settings, you may want to get a reprint of the 1906 classic, which led in part to the establishment of the US Food & Drug Administration.  (Prairie State Books)  Then you might want to read “Mad Cow U.S.A. – Can it Happen Here?” by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber.  Good to be educated on these things.


Now, does this comment give you greater confidence in government oversight?


“…Hallmark/Westland Meat (the supplier) bought cheap dairy cows and processed them into ground beef, which does not get a USDA grade and tends to be the catchall for scraps and less lucrative cuts of meat…”  (Taxpayers save money – good!  We were beginning to worry about the federal deficit again.)


The following makes me feel better already:


“…video footage shows workers using electric prods and high pressure hoses to force weak and sick cattle to their feet to be slaughtered…cattle that cannot walk are banned from human food out of concerns of BSE – commonly known to us as Mad Cow Disease’


…says the Los Angeles Times.  We are hereby assured…no Mad Cows involved.


Of course we have to take the word of everyone with a profit or bonus at stake that, really, no such really sick cows were thus ground into little frozen patties.  Trust – it’s at the heart of our vast food system network, with millions of players providing us with the food we consume at home, in school, at work, in restaurants…break that trust…we all are in trouble.  And there have been too many situations of broken trust {re: food] recently.



Before you take another bite, utter the words “hope / hope / hope” – as the Chino Valley Unified School District (California) spokesperson says…”…I hope this is just one place.  I hope it’s not everywhere.  I hope the others all follow guidelines…”  Me too.  I’ll have a salad, thanks, with thoroughly scrubbed lettuce, hot washed tomatoes and cucumbers — and give it a: 50 second spin in the microwave. On second thought, make that popcorn.


Keeping hoping – and Stay Tuned – this is surely not the end of the bad food stories we’ll be reading.


Hank Boerner


Editor & Publisher


Accountability Central


Foot note:  Hallmark Meat Packing of Chino, California was the producer of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled.  This is a privately-owned firm. Click here for commentary of the company president, Steve Mendell, on the recall.   The company has “voluntarily” suspended operations pending completion of a USDA investigation.  Despite video evidence to the contrary, CEO Mindell says “…only ambulatory livestock may enter the harvest facility to be processed for human food…I am confident that we have meet this high regulatory (USDA enforced) standard…”



Link to company statement from Steve Mendall – President


Link to full story that was originally commented on